Good Omens cast: Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Jon Hamm, Adria Arjona
Good Omens director: Douglas Mackinnon
Good Omens rating: 4 stars
“It starts, as it will end, with a garden. In this case, the garden of Eden. And with an apple,” says God, voiced by Frances McDormand, as we are ushered into the beginning of history, 6000 years ago. We see a black Adam and Eve being thrown out of Eden, as two sentinels watch. One is the soft-spoken, all white aura-ed angel Aziraphale, and the demon Crowley in all black attire, red curly hair and yellow snake eyes. The two and their highly unlikely friendship, formed through time, is at the core of the latest Amazon original, Good Omens.
The six-part show is based on Neil Gaiman’s and Terry Pratchett’s book Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (1990). Even though the show has come about two decades after the book, the source material is as relevant. Gaiman as showrunner had one mandate for the series – ‘To keep Terry Pratchett happy’ – and we can safely say that Pratchett will be ecstatic with the result.
Aziraphale and Crowley’s off-the-book friendship – heaven up above and hell down below, don’t know of their clandestine fraternising – has survived the Great flood, seen Noah’s ark being built, and Jesus crucified. Aziraphale loves a good glass of wine and crepes and Crowley has a thing for vintage cars and Queen. They have shared chalices of wine in classical Rome, even as Aziraphale introduced Crowley to oysters. In turn, the demon Crowley ensured that Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre will be packed, for the first presentation of Hamlet, even though he preferred the ‘funny ones’. The crux of their bonding is their mutual love for earth. Oh yes, and they wish to avoid Armageddon at all cost. They have conspired and run operations to ensure that the two opposing sides of good and evil never really come to blows.
But in spite of all their efforts, as it was meant to be, the countdown to doomsday is put in motion. The Antichrist is delivered on earth and is meant to be raised at the house of an American diplomat, which really upsets Aziraphale. “An American diplomat, really? As if Armageddon was a cinematographic show, you wished to sell in as many countries as possible,” he tells Crowley.
But in true Bollywood style, the baby is delivered to the wrong family, by a ‘chattering order of nuns’. And therein begins a mad comedy caper to locate the Antichrist, avoid Armageddon, and generally save the world. There are witches, prophecies and witch finders thrown into the mix as well. The show is replete with Biblical references that have been updated for today’s time. From Sodom and Gomorrah, to the four horsemen of the apocalypse – death , conquest, famine, war – ‘We outsource that kind of a thing now,’ remarks Crowley knowingly, who has also been credited for inventing selfies.
In the streaming world, which is overpopulated with dystopian, dark and unnecessary convoluted tales, or those that function in alternate time and space quantums, Good Omens comes as a very welcome respite. The witty repartee between the two protagonists keeps you hooked and there are many moments of silent chuckles to loud hahas. “Something smells evil. Oh that will be the Jeffrey Archer books, I am afraid,” says Aziraphale. The show is a perfect blend of fantasy, humour and satire and even God is served with some scathing tongue-in-cheek comments. The futility of religion and overarching world peace are concurrent themes in the show. When Jesus – who in Crowley’s words ‘seemed a very bright young man’– is being crucified, Crowley asks, “What was it that he said that got everyone so upset?” “Be kind to each other,” answers Aziraphale. “Oh yeah, That will do it,” nods Crowley in agreement.
The casting of Michael Sheen as Aziraphale is perfection indeed. It’s now impossible to imagine anyone else play the gentle, rambling, bow-tie wearing angel, who runs a vintage book shop in Soho. David Tennant as the leather-clad, swashbuckling demon who wouldn’t look out of place at Glastonbury Festival, is the perfect yang to the yin of Sheen. Jon Hamm as the lavender-eyed, archangel Gabriel and Adria Arjona as the raven-haired witch Anathema Device add to the gravitas of the rich ensemble cast.
For those of you who have a Game of Thrones shape hole in your heart, this will fill it up and have some to spare. And for the true believers of the genre and books, the add-ons of world building and background score to the original material will leave you with a satisfied smirk and nodding in agreement.
Good Omens is a must watch, because it’s rare to have this blend of fine writing adapted with this sincerity for the screen. In lesser hands, this could have turned into a bumbling mess. Watch and laugh, because if current political scenarios the world over are anything to go by, we might just be approaching an Armageddon of our own.